Instead of a bland appearance that was first suggested, the flooring in this school includes vinyl composition tile in bold colors that coordinate with the paint scheme. The design creates visual harmony with the walls.

Superior products with a greater emphasis on style and substance, supported by modern installation techniques, will spell increased profit in the commercial flooring sector, even during challenging economic times. Why? Because top-notch products mean greater value for the client. They effectively reduce use-cost and generally mean fewer operational headaches. Making the sale can be a snap if you focus your presentation strategy on the product’s long term benefits.

Move to higher ground. This high quality nylon cut-pile carpet with a custom overprint design may have been more costly that other commercial grade options, but it transformed this long corridor.  It also offers necessary camouflage for frequent spills and stains.

When called on to specify commercial products, I’ve always found it helpful to take along a variety of samples to show the client. Frequently, all they know is that new carpet (or other flooring) is needed.  It is unlikely they will be able to clearly communicate style specifics, so forget about taking just one or two products. Even if the client says, “We want a traditional flowered type carpet,” there is still too much guess work. You’re left to wonder if they are talking about nylon print carpet or an olefin loop or cut pile. Does he have his heart set on a woven Axminster carpet?  A couple of qualifying questions about the budget will help point you in the right direction. 

Always ask: “Do you have a particular product in mind, with a specific texture, or color?”  If the reply is very specific (“Yes, I want a 38 ounce commercial cut pile graphics pattern with an overtone of burgundy.”) then you can bet this client has already worked with a designer (or maybe your competitor) and has something specific in mind.  If that’s the case, you had better be able to offer several other choices that resemble what has been described to you. Understand you have an “educated consumer,” so when you go out the door for the appointment, take along a variety of products and cover as many price points as possible, That  does not mean you have to show everything; just that you are prepared to present a full line. If you do not take enough samples, the client may feel like they have not seen enough to make a decision and that you have not taken them seriously. Usually you’ll only get one shot at helping a client specify a winner for their particular situation.

But let’s say you are fully prepared and show up with several products with which you have had great success. Before you present them, I suggest asking the client if they have a sample of a product they like. If so, take a good look at it. Make a note of the name and manufacturer, and get a copy of the specification sheet if the client has it. With carpet, pay careful attention to the gauge, face weight, yarn system, and surface texture. Find out what the client finds appealing, i.e., why do they favor a particular product?  Is it the blend of color or the ability to hide soil, or does it perfectly match their décor? If it’s the product’s blend of color, or the pattern’s soil hiding ability, the client may be equally satisfied with your product, especially if there is a cost savings.

But remember there are other considerations. If the product selected is a match for other interior components and was specified by a designer or architect, you may need specific approval for a switch. You may not be successful unless you offer solid technical reasons and explain that their selection could result in substandard performance under actual use conditions. If the overall appearance of your selection complements the interior décor and provides additional value because of superior construction and potential performance, then that is what you should focus on in your presentation. In any event, you always have a better chance of winning a job if you are specifying the product. Otherwise you are just providing a bid to provide flooring specified by someone else, perhaps another flooring company.

So let’s say you get a call from a doctor opening a new dental office. His only request is for “basic carpet, vinyl tile, or ceramic tile.” Here is where you have a real opportunity to create a package with unique style and superior performance. Take along a 26-ounce multi-level loop solution dyed nylon, and at least two other level loop graphics pattern products with a couple of different price points. Include basic VCT, a solid vinyl tile upgrade, linoleum sheet goods, and a basic ceramic tile. Chances are he has already considered a basic carpet for the waiting room and common areas. To sell up on the carpet, talk about the long term benefits of using a pattern that hides spots or stains. Remind them that an under-stated pattern can create an “upscale look” well suited for a medical facility.

In the exam rooms, lavatories, or staff break room, perhaps a coordinating color in linoleum rather than plain VCT. This way, the doctor can avoid the expense of waxing that VCT frequently requires. As an alternative, suggest ceramic tile for the entrance area, lavatories, and break room. Even if the budget is tight or the doctor is only leasing the space, appeal to his concept of value: “Wouldn’t you rather spend a little more upfront than see the appearance of your space diminish before the lease runs out?”  Rather than the initial cost, talk about use-cost.  Remind them of the long term cost of cleaning and maintenance. Do this and it’s a good bet you will be perceived as much more professional and far ahead of your competition.

Maybe you have an opportunity for a commercial office job where time is of the essence. The property manager or owner must quickly remodel a large area that is still occupied. During your inspection you note that there are many systems (or modular) furniture in use. You also see multiple computers, file cabinets, and a number of small individual offices loaded with desks, chairs, and lateral files. The specification calls for a 28-ounce broadloom solution-dyed nylon graphics carpet, but you have a better idea. This may be your chance to be a hero by suggesting an up-sell to carpet tile. 

Show them several carpet tile samples that feature a graphics pattern similar to what they originally had in mind. Start your presentation by saying, “How long do you anticipate this re-carpeting project will take using the broadloom carpet you specified?”  Their answer is immaterial because your point is that tile is much quicker and less disruptive. When they estimate a time frame (or even if they don’t) you continue by asking “What if I could show you a way to save money, reduce the amount of time involved to complete the project, and lessen the impact on your employees’ productivity during the project?  Would you be interested?”  By the end of this question, I can just about guarantee you will have their attention. You then suggest carpet tile. Yes, the initial cost is greater than broadloom, but there are also significant savings. The moving and handling of office furniture is reduced and there is very little loss in employee productivity. You go on to explain the dramatic difference in the two methods of installation and tell them they can save from 10 to 20% of the overall project cost by using your methods. It’s a classic win-win. You go from selling a broadloom at $15 a yard to carpet tile at $25a yard; you make more money and the client saves money while reducing the likelihood of operational headaches.

In a commercial selling situation, it is easy to sell up if you stress value in your products and installation techniques. While budget is always important, owners can move money around in a project. Buyers or specifiers, meanwhile, will be swayed by your logic. You are reinforcing their decision to buy from someone who knows what they are talking about rather than someone just trying to make a sale.